He had a voice like taffy pulled and stretched, soft and a little sticky and a laugh that could be heard for miles. His smile reached right on up to those blue eyes that twinkled and sent the message that he knew just who he was and where he was going. He had a heart ten gallons deep and overflowing and he loved his family and his Jesus.
He teased my mamma when she was little and then took her for rides in his car and stood in her wedding because that’s what brothers do. He could tell a story and sing a song like nobody’s business. But the music ended too soon.
His name was Lester. He was burly and teddy bear soft. He was my uncle. He died about thirteen years ago from a disease we know little about. He died from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that robs the body and leaves the mind crystal clear. It is a living nightmare.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it. There are challenges floating all around social media where you dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate to alsa.org to help find a cure to this currently incurable disease. The challenge has received a lot of hassle. People who think it’s stupid to dump some water on your head and then ask others to do the same. And while it may seem silly, the ice bucket challenge has actually raised a substantial amount of money. Over $88.5 million, for a disease that up until a few days ago, most people had never heard of it.
But like any good thing, there’s a debate. See current research is focusing on stem cells. Traditionally stem cells come from a fertilized embryo. This constitutes an ethical dilemma on multiple fronts, for myself included. This issue is why many are respectfully declining the challenge. They don’t want to support embryonic stem cell research. I get that. I have my qualms about it also. I don’t think it’s right. But here’s the other side of the coin: because this research has had so many ethical concerns, those conducting research for ALS are conducting the majority of it on grown stem cells from adult skin cells. And my two cents is this: ALS is a disease which has received little recognition, yet people die from it each day. This challenge, this silly act of dumping water on yourself has brought MILLIONS of dollars to research that may one day stop the progression of this disease. Money that assists in finding a cure. Money that allows researchers to travel other paths than embryonic stem cells. Because with additional funds, new options are available. How can we ask researchers to find a new option, if we don’t give them any choices?
So tomorrow I’ll be answering a challenge set out to me by my friend and cousin. I’ll be filling a bucket with ice water. I’ll stand on the grass of my backyard with my hubby on the deck, poised and ready to let the water flow. And with wet hair and a heart of memories, I’ll fill in my credit card information and donate to the #IceBucketChallenge. And as I hit submit, I’ll think of my uncle, his laugh, and that twinkle in his eye, and I’ll pray for a cure.